This is the first blog in a two-part series about intrusive marketing practices and why we want to avoid them.

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You pull into a car dealership with your stomach in knots because the clunker you’re driving is rusted from the inside out and your mechanic has warned you it’s not safe to drive anymore.

You stayed up late the past few nights researching the exact vehicle you want and how much you can afford. Now you’ve forced yourself to show up at the dealership. As you peruse the expansive lot of shiny crossovers and hatchbacks, your anxiety intensifies.

When the smarmy sales guy you spotted on your drive in whips his head in your direction, you know it’s time to strap on your invisible body armor—because he’s aiming right for you. In that smug suit. That tacky tie that’s flapping in the wind. The cheesy, sales guy grin.

Unfortunately, it’s a biased perception we all have—whether it’s faulty or accurate or both, even at the same time. But car sales reps, in particular, have earned a terrible stereotype.

Why? Because many of us have been on the receiving end of what author Jeff Hoffman at HubSpot says are sales tactics sure to kill a deal: “Too many salespeople fall back on tricks and techniques designed to persuade their prospect into closing before they’re necessarily ready to.”

Bensley Law Offices explains in detail some of the psychological gymnastics dealers use, called “anchoring,” that unsuspecting buyers should know about before heading to the lot. They include keeping customers waiting—especially those with children in tow—for so long that the kids start whining and crying, and the parents agree to rush through a purchase.

“The problem with those tricks,” says Hoffman, “is that they’re completely transparent, put unnecessary pressure on buyers, and don’t work that well.”

A similar principle plays out in advertising, too. The golden rule in the industry, also known as the Rule of 7, says that a potential buyer must see an advertiser’s offer at least seven times before feeling compelled to act on it.

In the digital era, that means marketing campaigns often reach us not just seven times total, but seven times a day through all of our various social platforms and electronic channels. Clickbait headlines, pop-up ads, videos set to auto-play when all we want to do is read an article make for a cluttered, frustrating online experience that often deters rather than compels someone to buy.

That’s why, here at BlastPoint, we believe in backing off if people aren’t interested in our products. More is simply not more when it comes to advertising. If folks want to be left alone, then we think they should be left alone. Anything else is disrespectful.

But back at our fictional car lot, you, with your justifiably biased perceptions have an idea of what to expect when the smarmy sales guy approaches. That’s why you pretend you didn’t just make eye contact with him. Instead, you look left, look right, duck, gaze disinterestedly through the windows of a mini-van you think you’d never be caught dead driving (unless you’ve reached that stage where family comfort is all that matters anymore…).

Wanting to shop in peace, without being pressured, is normal. According to a study conducted by HRC Retail Advisory, 95% of people around the world just want to be left alone while they’re shopping.

That’s because the buyer’s journey can, and should, be a long and thoughtful one. In fact, when we make a big purchase, says that we typically encounter five stages:

  • recognizing the problem,
  • searching for information,
  • evaluating available alternatives,
  • selecting the final product or service and its supplier,
  • and evaluating the purchase afterward.

Whether we’re buying a car, a house, expensive software or even a new cell phone, we approach that decision with the end goal of making the right one, confidently. So, given what we know about manipulative sales tactics, it explains why some of us carry a healthy dose of skepticism with us along for the ride.

But there’s the opposite end of the spectrum that we don’t often recognize, too, and that’s where we find the many awesome sales people out there who are effective and successful at their jobs. They’re the ones who take great care to cultivate mutual trust and long-term relationships with customers.

They’re the ones who know that decisions about where, how, and whether people spend their money are very personal, and that each unique individual reaches conclusions about what’s best for them in any number of unique ways.

They are usually the ones we prefer to do business with.

When you arrived at the car lot, you came to see the exact vehicle you had researched for hours online. You came to take notes on it, maybe take it for a test drive, compare it against the half-dozen other cars you’ve identified as possible candidates, and then leave so that you can think long and hard about this big decision in private.

If that “smarmy” sales guy turns out to, in fact, be one of the good ones, he’ll approach with a quick hello, hand you his business card, and let you know where to find him once you have a question.

He’ll know that giving you the space and opportunity to mentally process is an essential part of relationship-building. He’ll know that trust is everything when it comes to delivering superior customer service.

Most of all, he’ll know that, if you’re truly not interested, it’s time to walk away from a deal.

“To walk away,” says the InternalResults blog, “your salespeople must think strategically and understand the big picture. Short-sightedness creates transactional approaches… You could create a transaction, but after the customer realizes the solution doesn’t work for them, he will feel ripped off or annoyed, and potentially dissuade others from meeting with you. This can be more damaging for you in the long run.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn—and an even harder one to put into real-life practice—no matter what business you’re in. But knowing when to leave someone alone is a critically important skill, and privacy is something you owe your customers.

The art of walking away is something that we at BlastPoint take seriously and want to master. When our marketing strategies aren’t working for you, we want to know about it so we can give you some space.

Have thoughts or experiences to share about intrusive marketing strategies? Drop us a line or tweet at us! We’d love to hear from you.


Come back next week for Part 2 in our Intrusive Marketing Series, “The Art of Leaving People Alone.”